What I’m Reading: Ghost of a Gamble by J.E. McDonald

Book Review: Ghost of a Gamble by J.E. McDonald

This review is a little different than the young adult titles I’ve mainly reviewed in the past, but I’m a broad reader and earlier this year I decided I would post more about everything I read, not just YA titles. Not that I’ve been finding much time to post reviews due to the day job, but I’m here now, and I’m back with a review of a brand new paranormal romance.

I’m lucky enough to be friends with the author and was provided a free copy of Ghost of a Gamble to review, and I’m so glad because I loved this book! This is J.E. McDonald’s debut novel and fans of paranormal romance won’t be disappointed.

Bree can’t hold down a steady job, and when she once again finds herself unemployed she snatches up work with Zack in the hopes she’ll be able to pay her rent. Zack is mysterious and hot and a paranormal investigator and Bree has no idea what she’s in for.

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Ghost of a Gamble is full of twists and turns and bursting with a haunting atmosphere that I loved. J.E. McDonald has a great sense of humor and smooth writing and plot make it easy to keep reading and hard to put down the book. Ghost of a Gamble is also the first book in the Wickwood Chronicles, names after the fictional town where this book is set. If Ghost of a Gamble is a sign of things to come, then I’ve very glad there will be more books in this series.

Ghost of a Gamble is out today, and if you want to check it out, just follow the links below.

Amazon: smarturl.it/Wickwood1Amz                                                                              B&N: smarturl.it/Wickwood1BN                                                                                      Kobo: smarturl.it/Wickwood1Kobo                                                                              iBooks: smarturl.it/Wickwood1iBooks

To find out more about J.E. McDonald, check out her website at

https://www.jemcdonald.net

 

What I’m Reading: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Book Review: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

I had this book on my shelf for about a year before my mother told me that she had read it and that she liked it. As a library technician, my mother knows books. So I knew I should pick it up and read it soon, and I’m glad I did.

The Bear and the Nightingale takes place in historic Russia and is full of folk and fairy tales. It consumes you, bringing you into the past and a deeply detailed life of a family struggling to survive the winter. Before reading this book, I vaguely remembered the tale of the Bear and the Nightingale from my childhood love of fairy tales, and I think I thought that this book would be as simple and straightforward as a five-page fairy tale, but it was much more intricate than that.

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I love the characters, especially Vasya, the strong heroine. But the book was slow to start and took me a good fifty to seventy pages to get immersed in, but once I was over that hump, the book flew by. I can’t wait to read the next one (I just have to wait for my mom to finish with it first!)

Have you read The Bear and the Nightingale?

5/5 Stars

JEH

What I’m Reading: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Young Adult Book Review: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Leigh Bardugo hasn’t let me down yet. Crooked Kingdom, the sequel to Six of Crows, was just as good as the first book. I love the rich cast of characters, and how she delved deeper into their psyche’s in this book.

Crooked Kingdom is again set in the Grishaverse. Technically, it’s the fifth book, but Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom can be read without having read the original Grisha Trilogy. For a more mature reader of YA, I might recommend skipping the original trilogy. Crooked Kingdom is darker than the original trilogy. It’s gritty and real and describes in breathtaking detail life on the streets of Ketterdam.

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This book, like Six of Crows, is a heist book. A gang of criminals, a job that needs to be done, will they be able to do it? This kind of dazzling plot keeps me reading and enjoying the book the whole way through. However, it did feel a tad bit longer than I like, but that may be because I’m favoring a slightly shorter read at the moment. But for fans of YA fantasy, this is a must-read.

And while I was reading it, I also made myself this sweet double-sided book cover to keep my cats from eating books.

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Have you read Crooked Kingdom?

4.5/5 Stars

JEH

What I’m Reading: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Young Adult Book Review: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Last year I reviewed Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse Trilogy, which I really enjoyed. I borrowed Six of Crows from a friend, and finished reading it at the tail end of last year (it has taken me forever to post this review but that’s another story of a busy writer’s life). I have to say that I was hesitant to read another book in Grishverse, but in the end I preferred Six of Crows over the initial Grishaverse Trilogy, mainly because Six of Crows was more adult than Shadow and Bone.

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I’ve written before about my preference for mature young adult fiction, books along the lines of Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, The Raven Boys trilogy by Maggie Stiefvater, and anything written by Holly Black. These authors don’t treat their characters like sheltered teens with perfect, non-dangerous lives. Their characters are constantly being forced to make tough choices, and they do. Life is about tough choices, and I love seeing this in young adult novels.

Six of Crows is about a rag-tag team of thieves brought together for a singular purpose, but everyone has their own agenda (of course!). It is a fast-paced heist novel, set in the Grisha world, which is a near steampunk, somewhat Gothic, almost Victorian but kind of Russian fantasy world. It is so unique and fun that Six of Crows was hard to put down.

I guess I’ll have to read Crooked Kingdom, the sequel to Six of Crows, because I know it will be just as fun.

JEH

 

My Top 5 Reads of 2020

It’s that time of year! Taking a look back over all I’ve read in 2019, a few books jump out at me. I’ll get to the list in a minute, but first I want to congratulate myself on reading all I did. While I didn’t meet my GoodReads goal—set at 60 books this year—I did finish 48 books! Plus, I read my own books a bunch of times while writing and editing them, so all in all, I did a great job with reading (can I add the books I wrote to my favourites???).

No matter how much I read, I always want to read more! While I want to set my reading target high for 2020, in the hope that I will find time to read more books, I’m going to set it reasonable, since I know 2020 will be busy.

But now, out of those 48 books, what were my top five?

  1. Legendary by Stephanie Garber (yes I liked book 2 better than book 3)
  2. Finale by Stephanie Garber (but book 3 was still fantastic)
  3. The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon (a great stand alone epic)
  4. The Wicked King by Holly Black (I always love Holly Black, can’t wait to get to Queen of Nothing!)
  5. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert (I know it isn’t YA, but I was super into non-fiction in 2019, so one of those books was bound to make the list!)

Of course, there were plenty of books released in 2019 that I just haven’t got around to reading yet (not to mention in 2018), so there might be some books that should be on this list but I just haven’t got to reading yet. My TBR pile is out of control, so as per usual, my new years goal is to not buy any more books and focus on reading more of the books I already have (this resolution tends to never last long—hopefully this year it will stick as I’m getting back into using my library).

What were your favourite reads of 2019?

JEH

What I’m Listening To: Finale by Stephanie Garber

Young Adult Audiobook Review: Finale by Stephanie Garber

This finally book in the Caraval Series didn’t let me down! After reading the first book and liking-but-not-loving it, I listened to the second book, Legendary, on Audiobook. You can read my review of that here.

Because the first book of Caraval is from one sister’s perspective (Scarlet), and the second book is by the other’s (Tella), I figured that the third book could go either way. I didn’t like the Scarlet book as much, so would I like a book told by both sisters? It turns out I did. I loved it.

There is just so much marvelous world building in this series (especially in books 2 and 3, which is why I loved them more than one). There is also the perfect amount of romance and adventure. But most, I just loved the magic. I’ve always had a thing for Tarot Cards, and I think anyone who has that interest will enjoy these books. I could easily read another book set in this world that deals with all those other fated places and things that we didn’t see in this trilogy (is it too much to hope??).

And as an audiobook, the narator did a marvelous job. I loved all the voices with perhaps the exception of Julian’s, since it felt like a bit too much, slightly jarrring as he had a fairly heavy accent compared to all of the other characters and it didn’t seem like he would considering spoilery things I won’t write here.

I recommend this book to any fantasy lover. 5/5 Stars

Have you read Finale yet?

JEH

What I’m Reading: The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

Fantasy Book Review: The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

When I saw this book sitting on the library book shelf, I just had to check it out. Sometimes is just in the mood for a gigantic, heavy book that one can barely lift in bed. It gives me a certain kind of satisfaction to finish such a large read, especially if I can manage to do it in three weeks, before the book is due (I’m a pretty slow reader most of the time because I have a day job and I’m also trying to squeeze time in to write my own books, so extra satisfaction points there).

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If you love dragons and fantasy book, you will love The Priory of the Orange Tree. For an epic fantasy, this book was entirely readable. There were no long, rambling passages, or full pages dedicated to the description of landscapes or the aforementioned tree, which I felt kept the pace of the book moving. There were, however, some slower passages dedicated to romance that could have moved along a tad bit faster for me. But all in all, I got through this book quickly and enjoyed it thoroughly.

However, part of me did miss the journey. For an epic fantasy, I thought the journeys of characters across continents happened very quickly and very easily. I’m so used to their being a certain aspect of difficulty when it comes to crossing deserts on foot, that in this book maybe had a page or two written on them. Of course, dragons can sometimes speed up and ease that travel. But still, parts of me did miss the journey.

This book was a standalone, which I loved. Because sometimes I want to read and epic fantasy but I don’t want to spend years reading an entire 13 book series (although other times I do). Another plus for this book was all of the strong female characters that were fighting to save the world. There was no playing second fiddle to men in this book!

A solid 4.5/5 Stars

JEH

What I’m Listening to: Legendary by Stephanie Garber

Young Adult Book Review: Legendary by Stephanie Garber

It’s been a while since I’ve published a book review. But lately, I’ve been spending a bit more time on the road and have gotten back into audiobooks. And the other week Legendary by Stephanie Garber was available from my local library, so I decided to check it out.

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I read Caraval a while back, and you can find the review here. I liked Caraval, but I didn’t love it. There were a few things I found confusing, and the story seemed a bit one dimensional, so when I finished Caraval, I didn’t plan on reading the rest of the trilogy. But then I started Legendary.

I LOVED legendary. I loved Tella’s character, but I also loved how the story went deeper, how the world’s mythology grew large and full of dimensions. There was so much more to Legendary than there was to Caraval. And the audiobook was very well done. All of the voices felt natural but weren’t too much (With the exception of one, maybe). I found the speed perfect (Note: I listen to my audiobooks at 1.25 times, otherwise I feel they move too slowly)

This is a case where the sequel is better than the first book, which I find rarely happens. But this trilogy does it. So if you read Caraval but were less than thrilled, give Legendary a chance anyway, it might just surprise you. It sure surprised me, and I can’t wait to listen to Finale.

Have you read Caraval or Legendary?

JEH

Best Edgy, Completed Young Adult Paranormal and Fantasy Fiction Series

Sometimes it sucks waiting for the end of a story. Other times, it only serves to build tension. But if you’re looking for an edgy, completed young adult series (a series you don’t have to wait years to read the ending to), then look no further than this list of completed series of young adult (arguably New Adult, in some cases) paranormal and fantasy fiction series.

  1. The Raven Cycle Series by Maggie Stiefvater – This series follows a group of high school students as they navigate the ley lines around their hometown. I enjoyed this series because it doesn’t just focus on the teens, but the adults too, including one very interesting hitman. IMG-1660
  2. The Smoke and Bone Trilogy by Laini Taylor – This series follows a young girl, whom, it turns out, isn’t so young, and her discovery that the world she thinks she’s from might not be the worlds she’s actually from after all. A young adult series with very few characters who aren’t actually really old, this books has plenty of mature themes.IMG_1024
  3. The Throne of Glass Series by Sarah J. Maas – To be honest, I haven’t totally finished this series since the conclusion, Kingdom of Ash, was just released in September of last year, but I plan on finishing the series soon. This series is set in a rich fantasy world created by Sarah J. Maas, whose rutting is dark and cutting and is definitely on the upper end of Young Adult.img_1871
  4. The Girl At Midnight by Melissa Grey – This series is set in the human world, and revolves around a secret battle between two races unknown to humankind, except for one girl who was adopted into this world as a child. Full of hidden secrets and surprises around corners, Melissa Grey is a great writer who gets deep into character. 63fd4-photo-26
  5. The Dark Caravan Cycle by Heather Demetrios- If you want edgy, this is it. This series is arguably pretty darn adult. There are very adult themes in these books (abuse, imprisonment, slavery), but also lots of sexual tension and magical adventure. If you love the idea of a gypsy trying to break free of her bottle, this might be the series for you. IMG_5116

What’s your favorite series?

JEH

What I’m Reading: Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

Young Adult Book Review: Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

The final book in the Grisaverse Trilogy, Ruin and Rising, was everything I expected it to be—almost. Same great writing, same lovable characters, broken hearts and action and adventure. But there was on thing I didn’t get, and from what I’ve read of other reviews, other people seem to feel much the same way. If you want to know more, scroll past the picture, but if you don’t stop reading now.

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The one thing I felt this book didn’t deliver to me on was the ending. I was expecting much of what happened. But I was expecting/hoping for all of it to end much more tragically than it did. Maybe I’m just all dark and twisty inside, but sometimes a happy ending seems to me to be too happy, almost forced, and almost not realistic. But also, I was just hoping for a different pairing at the end than what I got.

Still, I love this magical world and all of the unique elements to Grishaverse. I’ll probably read the other Grishaverse books. I hear that the other books are even better. Maybe I’ll even start one this weekend.

4/5 Stars

JEH